CHICAGO, Ill. -- Jim Delany is not the voice of the college sports world, except in a lot of ways, he is. The Big Ten commissioner is not the power behind the NCAA throne, but he does have influence.
Boy, does he have it.
Delany sees a sports future in which athletes are paid stipends, although it's referred to as the full cost of a scholarship. In this future, programs that pay players will compete against programs that can't afford to.
He calls it “the right thing to do.”
If it were only that simple.
We live in an elite world, full of shades of gray. The haves get more, the have-nots grit their teeth and accept it.
The power conferences have the money, and they will get more of it ($7.2 billion over 12 years) once the college football playoff starts in 2014. They have plans for that money and they don't want mid-majors messing it up.
There is talk of forming a super division, a so-called Division 4 that will basically be comprised of those schools in the Big Ten, the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the ACC. They are tired of, say, the Ball States of the world not just voting on issues that affect Ohio State, but stopping the Buckeyes from doing what they want to do.
At least, that is the perception.
Change the NCAA structure, and you stop that.
That, too, is the perception.
Delany doesn't want to blow up the current system, but he pushes for four major reforms:
1) An educational trust for athletes who leave school without getting a degree. If the player returned to school at a later date, the school would pay for his or her remaining expenses.
2) Finding a balance between academic and athletic time. NCAA rules permit 20 hours during the season, but athletes go way over that via “voluntary” training and film watching.
3) Giving academic “at-risk” students a first year to focus on school work, and then provide four years of academic eligibility.
4) Full-scholarship athletes get the full cost of a scholarship.
Changing the structure without addressing those issues, he said, would be missing the point.
“What really matters more than the NCAA structure is what that structure might produce in the future,” he said. “If we restructure and don't address some of the substantive concerns, I wonder why we have restructured.”
Take for instance, the full cost of a scholarship. Delany said during this week's Big Ten football media event that the full cost depends on the school, but generally runs between $3,000 and $6,000 a year. A compromise could mean $5,000 a player.
“I don't know if you're in five figures,” he said, "but ... three, four, five thousand is probably the range of the outside limit.”
To clarify, full-scholarship athletes basically mean men's and women's basketball players, and football players.
In other words, the glamour athletes get the financial rewards, as if they don't already get enough benefits when you add fame and all the other social perks that come with being, say, an Indiana basketball player or a Purdue football star.
As for all those other athletes who work just as hard and put in just as much time, if not more, well, they're out of stipend luck.
But wait. Some athletes in non-revenue sports do get full rides. It depends on the coach and the scenario.
A baseball coach basically gets 12 scholarships a year, which he can use however he likes, either as full or partial. If he has a shot to get the next Nolan Ryan, he might give that pitcher a full ride. That means less money for everybody else, so maybe the stud shortstop gets a half scholarship. So not only does the shortstop have to pay for half of his college expenses, he doesn't get that extra cash.
Think that could affect team chemistry?
And let's not assume players will use their money just to pay for laundry. You can get a lot of tattoos for $5,000.
Finally, don't forget about Title IX, which means you have to have the same amount of money for women as you do for men. Football and its 85 scholarships distort that. To balance it out, that might mean every female athlete in every sport gets a stipend. Or maybe each female athlete gets twice as much money as a male athlete or maybe …
“I'm not thinking it's simple,” Delany said.
Boy, does he have that right.